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Burns council discusses economic development, flooding

At the Burns City Council meeting on Wednesday, June 28, Burns Mayor Jerry Woodfin gave a brief overview of the “hot topics” being discussed at the economic development meetings being held recently at the Harney County Courthouse.

Woodfin said the first meeting was about small business and some of the ideas from those that attended included car rentals, a parking space or rest area on N. Broadway for travelers, a fun center for children to go to after current businesses are closed,  and inmates doing basic clean-up in the downtown area. He said there was discussion on what could be done about run-down buildings and getting businesses to pave their parking lots, putting in a souvenir shop, airport infrastructure, the upkeep or removal of the trees on N. Broadway, and checking to see if the vacant buildings around town meet city ordinance regulations.

Woodfin said the main topic of discussion at the second meeting was the work force and where are they?

“This is my opinion, and my stance on this is if you build it, they will come,” Woodfin said. “If we got this in Burns, Oregon, that was out in the city of Hines, that all of a sudden was going to employ 60 people, I think if you put the building out there, and you put the business out there, the people will come.”

There was also discussion about the poor property management in the community, Gem Air flights to and from Boise, Idaho that have room for one passenger, why the street light struck by a vehicle last winter hasn’t been repaired, and the availability of fiber optics in the community.

“The meetings have grown,” Woodfin said. “I like the direction I see going on there. The county, the cities, are really getting in tune with one another and it appears to me that everybody has the same goal and the same vision, but what is special right now is that everybody is doing it together. It isn’t just Burns. It isn’t just Hines. It isn’t just the county. It’s everybody working together and I think that’s how we’re going to get things accomplished.”


City Manager Dauna Wensenk told the council she had attended a meeting earlier in the day regarding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). She said the city’s engineer, Doug Ferguson, provided an estimate of peak discharge for 10 drainages that come off the hill. He used three different methods and the average of each of those is five to six times less than what FEMA had come up with.

“We’re pretty excited about that,” Wensenk said. “We’re hoping that our next FEMA meeting we can get the engineer from FEMA on the phone with us.”

She added that information will be going out to residents to check their flood insurance policies. She said there was an audit done of 34 policies and on 29 of them, the building coverage was well above the real market value, some as much as half.

Wensenk also told the council they are pleased with the response from residents who received letters regarding non-compliance issues.


In other business:

• Cara Wilber of Oster Professional Group, CPAs was present at the meeting to report on the June 30, 2016 audit. Wilber reviewed the audit with the council and answered any questions the councilors came up with;

• Kelly Everhart told the council that Kiwanis was planning a 5K Midnight Run for Aug. 19 and she asked if they needed to have a police presence during the race. She said the runners would start at Big R, run down to the Arrowhead Plaza, and then end at Burns High School. Runners will have flashlights and neon-colored clothing.

Burns Police Chief Newt Skunkcap noted it would be safer to have police in the areas where runners have to cross a roadway, and he offered his department’s help for the night of the race;

• Frank and Debbie Cronin were present to ask the council to vacate an alley in the N. Ivy area for construction of a new residence. After some discussion, the council voted to move forward with the request.

The council also voted to allow the Cronin’s to live in an RV on the property for up to six months while the construction is in progress;

• the council reviewed three bids received for replacement of the PAPI (precision approach path indicator) light at the Burns airport and voted to accept the first option in the amount of $5,469.37;

• Chief Skunkcap told the council there is an increase in traffic through the community because of  the Rainbow Gathering in Grant County and that has resulted in more calls, including stolen gas cans and panhandling. He said that not all the travelers are a problem, but a few make it hard.

Skunkcap added that they are already getting ready for the crowd coming in August for the solar eclipse as well;

• the council voted to approve resolution No. 17-640, adopting the budget, making appropriations, and imposing and categorizing taxes.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 12, at city hall.

Randy Parks

Randy was born in Iowa, and spent most of his life growing up in the Hawkeye State. After a few years in college, he settled in Idaho for a decade, skiing, golfing, and working at Sun Valley Resort. He married in 1985, completed broadcast school, and moved to Harney County in 1989 to work for KZZR. After 16 years of on-air work, he left the radio station and went to work for the Burns Times-Herald.

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